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What’s Wrong with the Blu-Ray Market Today? Part 1: Duplication vs. Replication, and AACS

Adobe Encore has had Blu-Ray authoring since the CS3 release, and it works amazingly well for authoring Hi-Def content. However, there are still some “gotchas” in the professional world that warrant discussion. These gotchas aren’t problems with Encore, but rather how licensing works for a couple of different technologies.

For this article, I’m going to focus on the differences between Blu-Ray Duplication and professional Replication, and how AACS is currently licensed. If you are interested in authoring that feature film to Blu-Ray and putting copies in every Best Buy, you need to know about this.

To get started, I need to define these terms:

Duplication: Using an existing disc or disc image, and making copies of the disc with a burner onto store-bought media. This is also what you call the process when using a “tower duplicator” like this one.

Taking a “Gold Master” disc or image to a professional replication house, where the image is professionally mass-produced to make 1000’s of copies.

In the case of duplication, Encore CS3 and CS4 work great. Both can burn discs direct, and both can make a Blu-Ray “image”, which can be loaded in a tower duplicator to mass duplicate a ton of copies onto store-bought burnable BD-R media. For mass-producing your movie, this is the only available option today.

Blu-Ray replication cannot be done today from an Encore disc or disc image, and it’s because of the licensing of the copy-protection system called AACS. AACS, or Advanced Access Content System, is MANDATORY in professionally replicated Blu-Ray discs. Professional replicators cannot make Blu-Ray discs unless the content is protected by AACS.

So, what’s the problem? Is Adobe too cheap to add AACS to Encore? It can’t be that expensive, right? Think again. The exact costs vary, so just treat these numbers as “ballpark examples.” I haven’t found a resource yet that breaks the costs down exactly, but it works something like this:

One-Time Cost to Join AACS-LA: Roughly $2000
Cost to get an AACS Certificate for your title: Roughly $1500

You need an AACS Certificate for EACH TITLE
. If you are only making one feature film, that’s $3500 in costs to eat up front, not including the cost of the blank media and the replication itself. If you make a second feature film, and want to replicate it, you’ll need to buy an AACS Certificate for that disc. If you decide to add additional bonus content to your original title for a second replication run, you’ll need a new certificate.

This is one of the reasons that Steve Jobs recently referred to Blu-Ray as “a bag of hurt.” Right now, the costs of AACS licensing really prevent smaller producers from authoring and replicating in small numbers. This has also started up a cottage industry of “duplication” to fill in the gap, since BD-ROM duplicators don’t need AACS, and the content will still play in most (but not all) Blu-Ray players.

The DVD Alliance has started a petition to try and get the industry to understand how their fees are stifling a new emerging industry. If you’d like to sign this, it’s located here:http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/blu-ray-disc-petition.html I, for one, would love to see these fees made more manageable, so that Encore can become a solution for both small-run duplication and larger-run professional replication.

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